i) This is the last part. Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a few words.
"Well she can't have just vanished into thin air! She's not Jarod."
Sydney could hear Raines loud and clear even though the wretched man was hundreds of miles away and currently shouting down the phone to Lyle. He watched Lyle with a calm scrutiny that years of working at the Centre had instilled in him. Outwardly the young man remained cool, very cool, but Sydney wondered exactly what was going on in Lyle's head.
"Maybe Jarod took her," Lyle replied evenly, "He's pissed her off often enough. Maybe this time she went too far and he just snapped. Jarod has a dark side - I should know."
He didn't have to glance to his side to know Broots was squirming anxiously - that was all he'd done since they'd 'lost' Miss Parker. Sydney's eyes remained on Lyle but he was unable to hear the next part of the conversation between the chairman and the chairman in waiting - the former must have calmed down a little. Or was struggling for breath after his outburst. Sydney smiled slightly at that thought.
Lyle turned to his right, so he was now looking directly at Sydney. "There's many a time I wanted to get rid of Miss Parker - why shouldn't he?"
The cold glint in Lyle's eyes suggested he was speaking in all honesty. But the grin that accompanied his statement made Sydney suddenly very wary, eroding some of his initial confidence. Had Miss Parker left of her own accord? His smile faded as Lyle turned his back to them once more.
"Jarod wouldn't have... hurt Miss Parker? Would he?"
"No," Sydney replied slowly and without turning to look at Broots whose eyes he could now feel resting expectantly on him. Instead he continued to watch as Lyle sauntered a little further down the alleyway that they were all currently occupying. "Jarod wouldn't hurt her," he said quietly. He was certain of that much, at least ninety nine percent certain; Jarod had the potential to surprise even him and after five years of running, hiding, and general loneliness maybe, if his freedom was threatened...? No, Jarod wouldn't. It had to be wishful thinking on Lyle's part. Broots cleared his throat nervously.
"What if Lyle has?"
Sydney finally turned his gaze to Broots; the same thought had just been lingering in his own head. Lyle was capable of just about anything, he was certain - but this? Just how desperate was he to win Raines' approval? "I'm not sure," he answered uneasily.
Broots frowned. "He appears out of nowhere and Miss Parker just vanishes," he whispered, shaking his head, "There's no such thing as coincidence when the Centre is involved Sydney."
He only nodded his agreement as, from the corner of his eye, he spotted Lyle do an 'about turn'. Broots made a very valid point but he could think of a possible explanation for Lyle's unexpected arrival.
"You two should get back to the Centre," Lyle said coolly as he stepped towards them, his call to Raines now over.
"Are you not joining us," Sydney asked, directly meeting the other man's gaze.
"No," Lyle replied, that cold stare resplendent once more.
Sydney smiled briefly, "Very well." He let his eyes drop slightly but he could still see Lyle, "Miss Parker's probably on her way back there with Jarod as we speak."
Lyle's face didn't falter one bit. He was one cool customer but he was also intrigued. "What makes you say that?"
"Well," Sydney shrugged innocently, "If she knew you were following her," he paused but Lyle didn't even acknowledge the accusation, "Perhaps she wanted to ensure there would be no... mishaps along the way. I understand the person who fails to return Jarod has no future at the Centre?" Lyle remained stony faced for a moment before flashing a smile.
"Maybe I will join you," Lyle said softly, hitting the speed dial on his phone with his one thumb, "You can tell me again just exactly what happened." Propping the phone against one ear he casually sauntered away again.
"You think he was just looking for Jarod too?" Broots whispered once Lyle was out of earshot.
Smiling thoughtfully, Sydney nodded again, "It would appear so." He hoped he was right because the alternative didn't bear thinking about. There was a moment of silence before Broots piped up again.
"Do you think she might have actually caught Jarod?"
Sydney smiled again. His right hand unconsciously tracked towards the inside pocket of his jacket but he stopped short of completing the move. "I don't know," he replied softly. Broots nodded sadly and again Sydney had to refrain from enlightening the younger man. Before Lyle and his sweepers had turned up, Broots and he had searched for Miss Parker - splitting up to do so. During this time Sydney had stumbled upon the only viable clue to this whole episode.
He had found Miss Parker's gun abandoned in an alleyway.
At first he had suspected the worst but a quick examination, before hiding the gun, had revealed it wasn't even loaded. Given the circumstances he was inclined to believe Miss Parker had decided to leave the Centre. There had been no obvious signs of such an intention but then Miss Parker, like Jarod, could always be unpredictable. That such an action had been taken during the chase rather than, say, disappearing during the night or some other such way left him wondering if she really was with Jarod and, if she was, just how she had managed to catch him.